Susan C. Anthony

Snowmachining the Nelchina Glacier

Dennis snowmachining down the Nelchina Glacier.March 22, 1997

Every time we drive north on the Glenn Highway from Anchorage, we see the Nelchina Glacier off to the right in the Chugach Mountains. It looks so alluring! I longed to explore it! We'd heard that people snowmachine up the glacier, across the mountains, and down the Valdez Glacier into Valdez. For awhile, there were commercial guides taking people on that trip (meaning there would be relatively safe, established trails).

Logistics were never favorable. We couldn't take the dog that far by snowmachine. We'd have to make arrangements to stay overnight in Valdez and snowmachine back the next day or find someone to meet us in Valdez and drive us back to our vehicle. Bad weather would mess up the best of plans.

Friends had planned a snowmachine trip on the Nelchina Glacier one spring some years earlier. Dennis was at the homestead, with which there was no communication at the time. He was supposed to join me at Eureka Lodge Friday night and we'd all snowmachine to the glacier on Saturday.  He didn't show up. Our friends went on ahead. I hoped to catch up to them with Dennis when he arrived. He never showed. Turned out that, although it was clear at Eureka, the weather was miserable at the cabin and he'd wisely decided to stay where he was.

This year, 1997, we decided to go for it. Dennis had a brand new Ski-Doo 670 Summit and I had my faithful Indy Lite. There are some very steep sections on the approach to the glacier. Dennis' machine turned on its side and wouldn't restart, for hours, despite all his best efforts. Finally we got it going and climbed up onto the glacier in late afternoon. It was a highlight of my life. My only regret is that we've never been back.

Since then, a few people have fallen into crevasses and been rescued. In 2011, David Joerg, 54, stepped off his machine to take pictures and plunged through an ice bridge into a 60-foot crevasse, where he survived for seven hours before Troopers rescued him by helicopter. In 2013, a 9-year-old boy plunged with his machine into an ice hole on a different glacier and was killed when his snowmachine fell on top of him.

Snowmachining on a glacier is a bit more risky than snowmachining on land, but you can't beat the scenery!Nelchina GlacierNelchina Glacier

Go on to read Goldie, the Dog
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